DISCLAIMER: I do not own Peacemaker Kurogane or Shinsengumi Imon Peacemaker. This is a work of fanfiction based upon the characters in those media, and is meant as no disrespect.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Hide And Seek ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hide and Seek, the game we play, as the hours while away, as the sunshine skies turn gray, until the final day, until the final day.

Demons in the night, hidden and unhidden, come out, come out, and play. Demons in the dark, sheltering burning hearts, tiptoe, tiptoe, towards destiny.

(I am hidden. Do you see me?)

Tetsu looked over his shoulder. They were conferring. They had important things to talk about. He had important laundry to wash. All for the cause. All towards a goal. But, if only they saw him, the true him, not the child, not a man-to-be, but a warrior. But, they refused. They refused to see the hidden potential. A page. They'd made him a page. But, already he could fight Heisuke-san to a draw. Why didn't they see? Why couldn't they see?

(They can not see me.)

With smiles and feminine grace, and a tea tray perched on elegant fingers, Yamazaki kneeled and served the inn's customers. One. Two. Three little Choshuu, all in a row. Lick your lips to flirt. Lick your lips in anticipation of spilled blood. Not yet. Not yet. Before the blood spills, the information must flow. All life can be distilled into liquids, the pulsing of veins, the tide of knowledge, the ferry across the river of death. A ninja must give wholeheartedly towards the mission, but, when a shinobi's heart is damaged, the mission will ask for a dearer toll. Smile now. Re-pour the tea. Laugh daintily and look away. You worry not. They do not see you. For what of you that is left to see is not worth a second glance.

(The living refuse to look upon the dead. Hide your eyes from death.)

Saitou stood in a doorway, his eyes downcast, his mala beads sifting rapidly through his fingers. What did they want of him? Why did they call him here? Ah, yes. They wanted once more to be seen. So desperately did they cry out from beyond the veil of mortality, he could not sleep. Did they care, at all, that every time he prayed for them, a little more of the shadows from their departed souls cast a caul over what remained of the brightness in his eyes? Soon, soon, he too would be a ghost. That is what they whispered, with their jagged tongues, with their cold blue lips. "Come with us, Hajime. Come away from all concern. It is your fate, and you know it. For, very, very soon, no matter the strength of your sword, you will be a ghost among the living, in a world you could not prevent. Put Fate aside, and come to us."

(No one will ever see the demon within you, ever again.)

Poetry. He liked poetry. He liked a great many things he would never reveal to his men. Languid curls of smoke rose from Hijikata's pipe as he gazed at the Shinsengumi soldiers practicing in the yard. He liked rain, the smell of it, the static that clung to flesh, the gentle sound upon the roof. In a different world, maybe he would have been, right now, handing a package of medical powder to some old man. Making pleasant conversation about the crops. But, now, now he could never be that man. As if erupted bodily from the terrifying mouth of a fiery volcano, he stood burning and aloof, galvanizing everyone he touched. It must be. It must be this way. Nary a weakness must ever be shown. No doubt. No regret. With sword aloft, he must lead them and must never fail. Or else, in the absence of perfection, all the things he secretly loved, would perish. No. They must never, ever, ever see that in truth, Hijikata is just a man. A mortal man.

(He can not see me, not now, not ever.)

Saya bowed her head and attempted to pluck out the tune. The older women told her that, in the absence of a voice, she could express herself through music. But, she didn't want to express herself. She didn't want to make her mark upon the world. She wanted to fade away, to never be the woman she was contracted to become. This world of writhing flesh and false smiles and dull laughter and cold music, held no certainty but the promise of sorrow. She wanted to take Tetsu and run far away from here. To a place without war, to a place unlike Shimabara, to a place... Where they would never, ever, ever be found. There was one word, a word that lived at the very tip of her tongue, a warning that strained at every moment to pass from her mute lips. "Disappear." Disappear. Disappear. Together, let us disappear.

(We shall hide and watch the world through different eyes.)

The Redhair could not see him. The Redhair bent over to put his hands in the water bucket. Saizou backed up further underneath the engawa. This place was shady, and quiet, and far from The Redhair or The Pipe. They both had loud voices, voices which hurt his ears. Not like The Longhair, who would coo so sweetly and give him treats. Upon finding a nice patch of mud still lingering from the overnight rains, Saizou rubbed his cheek into the goo. Cool. Refreshing. No one understood the health benefits of a good mud roll anymore. Perhaps he should take some to The Longhair. Saizou's favorite pet was looking a bit peaked, so maybe some mud would help. Oh, they didn't think he knew, but he knew. Saizou saw everything. They couldn't keep anything from him, those clumsy people. Sitting here, in a cool spot beneath the engawa, hidden from prying eyes, Saizou kept keen watch over his pets, the ones who called themselves 'Shinsengumi'.

(Can you see me? Do you see me?)

Tatsu's head dipped forward as he turned the page in the ledger. He squinted his eyes and shook himself back awake with a wide yawn. Sleep never came easy anymore. Tetsu's nightmares were his nightmares. Tetsu's troubles were his troubles. How could he protect his brother, when his brother didn't even see what was happening? Innocence, as fragile as these papers, burning into ash. The monster which had killed their parents had cast a knife into Tetsu's heart, infecting him with an abominable specter, poisoning him with a looming demon, imparting the blackness which craved retribution. Why couldn't Tetsu see that all his brother was trying to do was to draw out that knife? Why couldn't Tetsu see that Tatsu only wanted his young heart to heal? The need for vengeance was slowly burning out the eyes of childhood, and replacing them with the blind luster of steel.

(My katana can see the lackluster hue of your most hidden heart.)

"What do you see, when you look at me?", Yamanami asked his forbidden paramour. Akesato only smiled and stroked his forehead. He didn't want the truth, for the truth only brought them out of the dream, out of the warm fairytale nest they had momentarily constructed. Soon, very soon, it would crumble, and leave them naked to that which they had tried so hard to be oblivious. He would betray her. Or she would betray him. He would betray the Shinsengumi. Or she would betray her clan. On all sides, they were beset by reality, clawing at the door, howling at the window, bearing fangs that hungered for the dissolution of fantasy. "What I see," Akesato answered quietly, "Is not as important as what I choose not to see."

(The wolves at the door cry, "One. Two. Three. Ready or not, here we come!")

Harada grabbed Heisuke by the collar and dragged him out of bed. "I'm telling you! I haven't seen Shinpachi since he went on guard duty last night. He just disappeared!" Heisuke tried desperately to pry his friend's fingers from his clothing, but decided to give up and attempt to nap whilst being dragged through the courtyard. "Maybe he got eaten, you know, by those giant man-eating birds?"

Heisuke only nodded through heavy-lidded eyes. Nagakura. Eaten. Giant birds. Being dragged around by Sano. Mmm. Yawn. Nap. Feeling their journey come to a stop, Heisuke's eyes blinked open. Huh? What now? And then he heard it. "CAW! CAW!" Heisuke looked up to see the giant bird hurtling towards his head. GIANT BIRD!?!?! A GIANT BIRD ATE SHINPATSUAN!!! What the hell???! It was all Heisuke could do to cover his head and duck. Nonetheless, this did not prevent the collision with the plummeting "bird".

Heisuke screamed as he rolled around on the ground, trying to shake off the monster, now fully awake. Undaunted, Nagakura stood up and laughed. Jumping off the roof onto Heisuke had given the sleepy comedian the scare of the century. "Geez, Heisuke, you scream like a girl," Harada said once he had finally been able to control his laughter, "Some Shinsengumi you are. You never even saw it coming!"

(You'll never see me in the shadows, as I wait to strike. You'll never see me in the daylight, as I wait to die.)

In the alleyway, Okita slid his back against the wall as he fell to his knees. On the ground before him, Okita's katana lay still plunged into the spy's neck. Hmph. Okita had known for some time now that the confectioner, Nagi, worked for the Choshuu faction. Did they think him simple? Did they think him oblivious? Just because he liked sweets didn't mean that he was, essentially, a sweet and forgiving man. Still, tomorrow, when Tetsu-kun heard the news that the proprietor of his favorite candy shop had been murdered, what would Okita say? "It was my sword that lunged from the shadows and claimed his life? My fingers reached out to stifle the pitiful moans as Nagi begged for mercy? My eyes that passed judgment and awakened the executioner?" No. Okita would smile, and pat Tetsu's back, and comfort him. Let the chibi think, if only for a short while longer, that there were worse things in this world than the wrath of the Shinsengumi. If Tetsu could hope, despite all evidence to the contrary, if Tetsu could fool himself into thinking this would end happily, then maybe...just maybe...

Okita's lips pulled into a grimace as he fought against the urge to cough.

Just a little longer. He wanted to hide from the future, just a little while longer. If Tetsu could hope, then Okita could hope, too.

(Hiding from the future, from the monster 'Fate', the demons play, the demons smile, the demons lay in wait.)

The Ikeda-ya's floors had become so slick with blood it became hard to keep a foothold. Bodies lay at every angle, broken, cut, dying and dead. But, the stain on the floor would never match the stain on history. Glorified. Despised. Sang into legend. Cursed into humiliation. The Shinsengumi, vicious wolves that no one expected, fiery hearts that no man had conceived, had emerged from their hiding places and struck fear into the opposition. The game of Hide and Seek had come to an end in a night of terror. A tragedy? A victory? The eyes of history had been pried open with steel blades, and anointed with blood.

(They will see us.)

(Now they will see us.)


The end.

Sorry for the bizarre formatting. I may go back and bold the interludes, when I figure out how to use Word.